I’m a trail hound not a gym rat. Give me fresh air and exercise in the great out-of-doors over the temperature-controlled gym and a workout at the club.

Still, I reluctantly drag myself to the local YMCA twice a week for a spin on the stationery bike and a round of the machines just to keep up on the ‘ol core strength and to keep my middle-aged middle flat.

Never, though, did I ever walk on a treadmill, though there are plenty of them, in two workout rooms at the Y. I always figured there are plenty of places to walk outdoors, why would I ever want to tread indoors? Surely treadmills are only for those who live in colder climes and urban areas, not for someone who lives in coastal California. For ten years, I’ve watched others walk and jog, huff and puff on the treadmill, but was never tempted to try it myself.

Take a \”Mystery\” Hike on the Treadmill Trail

Until last week. It was a dark and stormy night, following a dark and stormy day; I had walked nowhere all day and missed getting any exercise the day before, too.

I mounted the StarTrac and scrolled through the programs. Imagine my surprise to discover workouts that seemed named to reach my inner hiker. I started out with “Forest Walk,” which was wayyyyy too slowwwww. I tried to speed up the pace and increase the incline, but the machine kept defaulting back to a very, very slow walk in the woods.

Next I tried the more challenging Trail Blazer program and the even more challenging Alpine Pass. My favorite treadmill trek turned out to be “Mystery Hike,” a combo of easy flat hiking and some surprise ascents.

I tried to imagine myself on a hike in nature but the reality of a guy, 50 pounds overweight and gasping for breath, plodding along at two miles an hour on the treadmill next to mine, intruded on my visualization attempts. The graphic display for the Mystery Hike program was a large question mark (“?”) on the screen in front of me, which did cause me to wonder why I was doing what I was doing.

No question, though, I felt fitter and de-stressed after my indoors workout. It was better, much better than nothing. And I appreciated the StarTrac Company naming workouts to appeal to hikers. Next time it’s cold and rainy, I might take the Lake Walk on the treadmill. Or maybe I’ll just go for a hike in the rain.